Death of Former Members: Expressions of Sympathy

In accordance with the order of the House from yesterday, we now proceed to expressions of sympathy on the deaths of our former colleagues, Brendan McGahon of Louth and Seymour Crawford of Cavan-Monaghan.

Before calling Members to offer their tributes to our departed colleagues, I welcome the families of Brendan McGahon and Seymour Crawford to the Distinguished Visitors Gallery. Brendan is represented by his daughters Jill and Adele, his son Conor and their family; and Seymour is represented by his nephews, Andrew and Alistair, and niece, Kirsten. They are very welcome to Leinster House today. This is a sad day for them all, but I hope that the memories shared here in Dáil Éireann will serve to support them as we pay tribute to two much respected and distinguished former Members.

I did not have the privilege of knowing Brendan McGahon personally; he retired from this House in 2002, the year I was first elected to Dáil Éireann. He was from a long line of political activists in Louth, stretching back over many decades. It is fitting that that tradition is continued by his nephew, John, a familiar face for many of us in Leinster House today.

Few of us would doubt that Brendan's 20 years here were on occasion politically colourful and sometimes contentious with views on a wide range of issues which divided opinion nationally as well as in the county he clearly represented with such pride. He was a man of his own independent views, firmly expressed, with such independent voices making our parliamentary tradition all the richer.

He also struck up many seemingly unlikely associations and friendships during his time in this Chamber, finding common cause with equally committed public representatives which transcended personality and tribal politics. As Brexit threatens the peace, stability and economic well-being of places such as his beloved Dundalk, we need to continue to find common cause as Brendan often did for the greater good for all citizens we are honoured to represent in this Chamber.

I did know Seymour Crawford very well and held him in high regard. I had the honour of serving on the agriculture committee with him. While the stony grey soil of his home county was different from the land I farm in Kildare, his deep knowledge of farming, farmers and the concerns and challenges facing that community found a firm and vocal advocate on that busy committee.

As well as the agriculture committee and many considered contributions here in the Dáil Chamber during his years with us, Seymour was an active and long-serving Member of the British-Irish Inter-Parliamentary Body subsequently the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly. As we mark the centenary of the First Dáil as an integral part of our decade of commemorations, I salute in particular the work Seymour undertook in advocating cross-Border co-operation and understanding, work this fine, upstanding and decent man undertook with quiet efficiency and delicacy.

Both Brendan McGahon and Seymour Crawford served this House with distinction and fortitude. As Ceann Comhairle, I offer my renewed condolences to their families who should take great comfort in the patriotism shown by both Brendan and Seymour.

Inniu, déanaimid comhbhrón agus tugaimid ómós do bheirt Bhall den Teach seo a d'fhreastal anseo le honóir agus le gradam. Bhí fuath go smior agus go buan ag Brendan McGahon agus Seymour Crawford don bhforéigean agus bhí siad tiomanta go gcuirfí an síocháin i réim san oileán seo. Mar Bhaill de Thionól Parlaiminteach na Breataine-na hÉireann, d'oibrigh siad ar chúlstáitse anseo agus i Londain chun cairdeas idir an dá thaobh a chur chun cinn agus tuisint níos doimhne a chothú. Teachtaí Dála dúthrachtacha, cróga ab iad araon, a chur go mór le saol agus sochaí ár dtír.

In politics as in life, it takes courage to swim against the tide. It is one thing to stand up for one's principles when they are popular and widely accepted; it is quite another to stand up and speak up when one's views are unpopular or when one goes against the views of one's colleagues, especially when there is a considerable threat to one's life.

Brendan McGahon's career of public service was defined by his political courage. He was a man of principle and great personal courtesy. He had friends on all sides of this Chamber. He once remarked that he sometimes got on better with those on the other benches. Notwithstanding, he was very much an admired respected colleague in Fine Gael and colleagues valued his integrity and courage.

The history books record how Brendan McGahon stood up to the Provisional IRA and shone a dark light on their dark deeds and cruelty. He famously refused to close his newsagent's shop in Dundalk during the funerals of hunger strikers in 1981, despite threats to his life and limb. Throughout his career, he excoriated the Provisional IRA for its violence and hypocrisy, and he gave voice to its victims.

As a teetotaller, he was disgusted by the glorification of alcohol and wanted greater punishments for drink-driving offences. I had the opportunity to meet him on several occasions. While I did not agree with all his views, I certainly respected them. He opposed the abolition of the death penalty as well as the decriminalisation of homosexuality. At the same time, he supported the introduction of divorce in certain circumstances and defied the Fine Gael party Whip to vote against hare coursing.

Brendan showed the same tenacity and determination in the Dáil as he did on the football pitch, at an earlier time in his life playing for Dundalk F.C. For nearly 20 years between 1982 and 2002 he represented the people of Louth with distinction and he was a tireless advocate for the economic development of his county. I believe he would be rightly proud at the progress made there in recent years.

Sadly his wife, Celine, predeceased him. We offer our condolences today to their five children, their extended family, including Councillor John McGahon, who is known to many of us in the House, and his considerable number of friends. Ní bheidh a leithéid ann arís.

In a distinguished career of public service, Seymour Crawford was a peacemaker who used his considerable expertise to serve his community, his constituents and his country. He represented the people of Cavan-Monaghan in this Chamber for 19 years. We benefitted enormously from his considerable experience as a farmer, as a director of the CBF and as vice president of the Irish Farmers' Association. It gave him unique insights into agriculture and related issues, such as animal welfare, drainage and the beef industry. I know his advice was greatly valued during the particularly difficult General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, GATT, negotiations. My colleague, the Minister, Deputy Humphreys, has rightly described him as the best Minister for agriculture we never had and I think that is a very fair description.

A gentle giant, Seymour was passionate on so many issues, including education, the care of the elderly, rural roads, tourism and social welfare. With a good sense of humour and natural humility, he knew how to bring people along with him and how to strike a good deal. He was perhaps most at home in his constituency office in the Diamond with files all around him, putting his considerable skills to the service of his constituents. As a bachelor politician, he was truly married to the job.

For 14 years he was a member of the British-Irish Inter-Parliamentary Body and then the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly, later serving as Vice Chairman. As a Presbyterian from a rural Border community, he knew all about the different traditions on the island and he played a crucial role during one of the most important periods of the peace process, bringing his unique perspective to the table. Peace and reconciliation were his overriding concerns and he did much to develop understanding and trust between North and South.

On a personal note, I had the privilege of working alongside Seymour during his final term in the Dáil, which was my first. I know that I am not the only member of the current Government to have listened to and learned from him prior to his retirement and to have enjoyed his company in the Member's restaurant on Wednesday nights. Today we offer our condolences and sympathies to his niece Kirsten, his nephews Andrew and Alistair and his extended family and friends. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.

Ar mo shon féin agus ar son pháirtí Fhianna Fáil, ba mhaith liom comhbhrón a dhéanamh le clanna Brendan McGahon agus Seymour Crawford. Ar dtús, maidir le Brendan McGahon, ba mhaith liom a rá gur polaiteoir agus fear lách, gnóthach, neamhspleách agus cróga a bhí ann. Is léir go raibh sé macánta agus bhí sé cróga maidir leis an méid a bhí sé sásta a rá i dtaobh gach aon rud agus ar gach aon cheist pholaitiúil ag an am.

During his 20 years in this House, Brendan McGahon established a reputation as a colourful and very straight-talking Deputy. Right from the start he made it clear that while a loyal party man, he was also his own man. He was one of the first of the independents within political parties that we have all come to know in more recent times. He was elected in November 1982 and at every election thereafter until he retired in 2002. He made his maiden speech on the topic of Dáil reform in January of 1983, saying that it might be somewhat "impertinent" of him, as a new Deputy, to endeavour to make any contribution to the debate. It is fair to say that Dáil Éireann got used to and enjoyed his impertinence over two decades.

Brendan was also a man of great courage, both moral and physical. He stood up to the Provisional IRA at a time when his own life could have been put in danger. It is difficult at this far distance to fully appreciate the depth of his courage on those occasions. He was a vocal critic of IRA violence and saw how it wrecked the Border region and the local economy over decades. He was very blunt and unflinching in his assessments. He stated, "Terrorists do not wage a war. They are despicable vermin who plant bombs in pubs and under cars and shoot people in the back." That was the nature of Brendan's articulation at the time. In a powerful contribution in 1983, he lamented how Dundalk had suffered so grievously since 1969 as a result of the Troubles.

It is not an overstatement to say that he placed a great emphasis on law and order, a very strong principle for him. He accepted that his views on this question would be considered a throwback to another era. He had no doubt that they would be scoffed at by many in the legal and academic arenas but he proclaimed his membership of the "hang them and flog them brigade" and made no apologies for it. He was of the view, as articulated in the House, that prisons were the equivalent of grade three hotels. He had a very clear, unvarnished perspective on issues.

While he was a staunch critic of the IRA, he was also a very strong critic of the British Government and its policies. He would, at times, invoke the late Liam Cosgrave in terms of being particularly conscious of how to deal with the British Government. His views might have had some application in the context of Brexit today. He was very strong on Northern Ireland. On one occasion he was first out of the traps to question the Government about British Army incursions across the Border, much to the consternation of one Charles J. Haughey, who had to settle for being second on the list of questioners on that occasion.

I had the opportunity, on first arriving in this House in 1989, to go on a visit to France. Deputies were restoring relations with French parliamentarians and Brendan accompanied a large delegation, of which I was the youngest. To say that it was some experience would be an understatement. I have to say that Brendan McGahon had many talents, as exemplified during that trip. He had great humour and wit and would have made a great comedian. I cannot go into the details of the stories of that trip because there are other Members who were on that trip who might not wish me to provide details of how Brendan made it one hell of a trip to remember.

In 2000, during one of his final contributions in the House, he joined in expressions of sympathy for the late Paddy Donegan, another Louth man whose career did not escape controversy. The words he used then could readily be applied to Brendan McGahon himself, who was:

... something else. He was different, flamboyant and colourful. He was not po-faced, as so many politicians are. I do not speak of anyone here. He was a big man, big in stature and big in heart ... he was big in generosity. He was also big in compassion. He served the people of Louth in a wonderful way.

I express my sympathy to Brendan's children, Robert, Conor, Adele, Keith and Jill, and to his extended family, particularly Councillor John McGahon who has followed in his footsteps.

Seymour Crawford, arís fear cneasta, cineálta, dílis dá mhuintir a bhí ann agus fear tuisceanach chomh maith. D'oibrigh sé go dian dícheallach ar son a mhuintire agus muintir a dhúiche mórthimpeall. Seymour Crawford was an affable Member of the House who was well respected across all parties and none. He was a dedicated public servant who always promoted peace in Northern Ireland, particularly in the context of his membership of the British-Irish Inter-Parliamentary Body. He gave a lot of insights to people in the House at the time about the complexities of the issues. He worked exceptionally hard for his constituents in Cavan-Monaghan as a councillor and as a Member of the Dáil.

I got to know Seymour well when I was Minister for Health because he was always working to try to improve services in the Cavan-Monaghan area. To be fair, he was a non-partisan politician who would come to me with ideas to resolve very difficult issues, of which there were many in the health arena at the time. He was always very personable and was very popular with all who got to know him. He had a great sense of decency and a very deep understanding, as the Taoiseach noted, of agricultural issues, stemming from his time in the Irish Farmers Association, IFA. Indeed, his very first Dáil contribution, which came on his second day in this House in 1992, was in connection with an increase in livestock headage payments during which he expressed annoyance that not all of the people of Cavan-Monaghan would avail of it. Throughout his time here it is fair to say that agriculture and rural Ireland were his predominant concerns and especially the Border region. He was somewhat concerned at times that the Border region seemed to be expanding, especially when it came to funding. He wittily observed in the Dáil that:

In the past whenever INTERREG funds were made available for Border areas, especially for roads, the Taoiseach thought fit to allocate some of those Border funds to Counties Longford, Roscommon and Meath. One wonders how those counties suddenly became Border areas.

Seymour Crawford was not one dimensional, however. In his final contribution in this House in 2011, he spoke of the need for greater gender balance in the Oireachtas, saying that he had an interest in this matter because he encouraged a young woman to accept a nomination to follow him into the Dáil. He stated, "The lady in question will face all sorts of difficulties because the political system is structured in a manner that does not encourage female participation in politics.". The woman in question entered Cabinet three and a half years later, so Seymour did well in terms of selecting his successor. He never held ministerial office. Fine Gael was in office for just two and a half of his 18 years in this House. Those two and a half years were during his first term as a Deputy, so he was unlucky in that respect. Uniquely, during his time here he was the only Presbyterian in the House and he was very committed to his faith. Had he been less committed, it is suggested, he might have entered the House in 1989. However, the Fine Gael selection convention was held on a Sunday on that occasion and Seymour felt that participation was not in alignment with his faith. It is fair to say that he was a man of strong principle. He was a strong advocate for his community and they can be proud that in Seymour Crawford they had a true and stalwart representative. I extend my sympathies to his niece, Kirsten, his nephews, Andrew and Alistair, and his extended family.

The passing of Seymour Crawford on 20 October 2018 was universally regretted across the counties of Cavan and Monaghan that he represented as a Fine Gael Deputy with distinction for over 18 years, from 1992 to 2011. A kindly man, Seymour was easy company, every bit as much at home in conversation with neighbours and constituents as he was when engaging in thoughtful and serious discussion with voices from across the spectrum of political opinion in Ireland or in Britain.

From a long-established farming family, Seymour Crawford embodied the life and soul of his community. During our overlapping years of public service we became mutually respectful friends and constituency colleagues in the true sense, our differences accepted. I extend, once again, my most sincere sympathy to Andrew, Alistair and Kirsten and to all of the extended Crawford family.

I also extend sympathy to the McGahon family on their bereavement. Brendan McGahon and I did not always have close conversation but he was a presence in this institution.

May Seymour Crawford and Brendan McGahon rest in peace.

I rise on my own behalf and on behalf of the Labour Party to express our condolences to the families of the late Brendan McGahon and Seymour Crawford, both very distinguished former Members of this House. Having served here for some time, I had the privilege of serving with both and I remember both very fondly.

Brendan McGahon came from a long and distinguished lineage of democrats. His grandfather, T. F. McGahon, was one of the inaugural members of Dundalk Urban District Council when it was established in 1898 and a leading member of the Irish Parliamentary Party at that time. He established a local newspaper, the Dundalk Democrat, which, I understand, Brendan later ran in the 1960s. Brendan succeeded his cousin, Hugh, on Dundalk Town Council and on Louth County Council at the 1979 local elections and entered this House in the November 1982 general election as a very proud Deputy for the constituency of Louth.

The Ceann Comhairle said with a degree of understatement that Brendan McGahon was sometimes controversial. He certainly was, but always passionate about his belief. Brendan McGahon was a cousin of Ruairí Quinn. Two more disparate perspectives on normal political discourse or issues would be hard to find, but they were best mates. They loved presenting themselves as cousins, with each often saying, "Have you heard my cousin's view on that..." Usually, they were very divergent on any of the issues of the time.

As others have stated, Brendan McGahon always took a very courageous stand in regard to the campaign of violence of the Provisional IRA. He took risks with his own safety on these issues. It is no small matter when one takes a stand of such a fundamental nature. He took risks years later when he gave evidence in the High Court in support of The Sunday Times, which was being sued for libel at the time by an individual who was accused of directing IRA bombing campaigns in Britain. This was the sort of moral courage that Brendan McGahon exuded. He was respected by all across this House, even those who in general terms would not have agreed with his positions on a range of issues. We need people of that calibre in this House, people who think through their opinions with force and strength and who argue with conviction even at the risk of their own personal integrity and safety. I commend his service. I know that Brendan's family will take great comfort in his contribution to public discourse in our nation and in our Parliament.

I also had the privilege of working with Seymour Crawford, again, a large figure in every way in this House. He was gentle, forceful, strong and clear. He was a distinguished former vice president of the Irish Farmers' Association and so he had a deep understanding of matters agricultural. People listened to him and learned from him when contributed on agricultural matters in this House. Others have said that during his Dáil terms Seymour was the only Presbyterian Member of the Oireachtas. It was important to have perspectives like his in the House. In his eulogy, the Reverend Nesbitt highlighted Seymour's deep interest in all cross-Border structures and underscored his work in advancing North-South understanding, trust and reconciliation, matters that are germane and important right now. In 2004, Seymour Crawford served as vice chairman of the British-Irish Interparliamentary Body and he served as a member of that body for 14 years. In his work, he made a significant personal contribution to the advancement of the peace process. I think Brendan and Seymour would be concerned at what is unfolding now in regard to Brexit after all their years of effort in building reconciliation across this island.

The extended family of Seymour Crawford can be very proud of his contribution to this House and the role in played in serving this country.

On my own behalf and that of my Independent colleagues, I join in the expressions of sympathy to the McGahon and Crawford families as we remember former Members Brendan McGahon and Seymour Crawford. I served with both of them. They were dedicated workers for their constituencies in this House. Obviously, the broad left in this Chamber would have disagreed with many of the views of Brendan McGahon but on a personal level he had close relationships and friendships with Members from my side of the Dáil.

It was always a pleasure to serve with Seymour Crawford. He was one of the most decent and hardworking Members of this House. I agree with the Taoiseach that he was one of the best Deputies we ever had who was not a Minister. He had an encyclopaedic knowledge of agriculture.

Ar dheis Dé go raibh a n-anamacha dílis.

On behalf of the Rural Independent Group I express our sympathies on the deaths of former Teachtaí Dála, Brendan McGahon agus Seymour Crawford.

I knew Seymour Crawford well. I knew of him before I came into this House because my late father-in-law, Nicholas, was a colleague of his in the IFA and the National Farmers Assocation, NFA, and I had heard many stories regaling his exploits regarding farming politics. He had a huge knowledge of farming issues.

Seymour was first elected as a Fine Gael Deputy in the 1992 general election, when he became a Member of the 27th Dáil. He was re-elected to the Dáil in the 1997, 2002 and 2007 general elections, during which time I got to know him. As was said earlier, he was a member of Monaghan County Council from June 1991 to 2003. He was involved in many of the group water schemes in Monaghan that I became familiar with. In 2004, he was spectacularly elected vice president of the IFA. Many of us here will be going to a meeting soon at which we expect to be lobbied by the IFA. Seymour was also vice chairman of the British-Irish Parliamentary Body in 2004. He straddled the Border well because of his faith and his friendship with former Senator Fox. He held strong views in many areas. He was respected by all in Monaghan and Cavan.

Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.

I did not know Brendan McGahon but I had seen him many times on various television programmes. I recall him being very straight and honest with Mr. Gay Byrne on the "The Late Late Show". I do not think he was ever again a guest on that show but he told Gay Byrne what he thought about different things. He was a straight-talking, fearless politician. They are scarce today. He served his people well. I welcome his family here today, as I welcome the relatives, nephews and nieces of Seymour Crawford. I want to add our voice to the expressions of sympathy. Brendan McGahon and Seymour Crawford served rural constituencies with many different complexities. Seymour had a good eye for future politicians.

Tá an tAire anseo inniu. She knows I know all the people up that way, so she is always careful in what she says to me. I am delighted to welcome everyone here. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a n-anamacha dílse.

I knew Brendan McGahon. My colleagues, Trevor Sargent and John Gormley, did also and always spoke so well about him. Similarly, my colleagues in the Green Party in Dundalk, Councillors Mark Deary and Marianne Butler spoke in the same vein of his honesty, his bravery and his integrity which was known to our party and very much appreciated.

I also knew Seymour Crawford and had the great privilege of being in the Dáil at the same time he was here. It was a privilege to work with him. He was a gentleman, a gentle giant, as others have said of him today. The culture of this place is convivial and collegiate and Seymour epitomised that. It is important we have that, namely, those basic decent Christian values that he espoused and lived in every small engagement he had. One could have a difference of opinion and a different political outlook but when one met him and chatted about things one sensed that he respected one's view while holding dearly onto his own. He epitomised what is good about this place and he is sorely missed. We send our respects to both families and thank them for what their men did for this Dáil.

We will hear from constituency colleagues. Deputy O'Dowd is abroad on Oireachtas business but sends his sympathies to both colleagues' families.

I welcome both families here today. Having this vote of sympathy is an expression and a celebration of their lives. I come from an area that was subject to many boundary reviews. We were in and out of the Monaghan and Louth constituencies on a regular basis. I got to know Seymour in relation to health services and Deputy Mattie McGrath mentioned his guidance in relation to water schemes. I was very appreciative of that and I want to put that on the record.

I would describe Brendan McGahon as a man of his people. Others have said he was not afraid to say what is on this mind. While one might not have been in agreement with everything he said, he was certainly colourful and outspoken and often held controversial views. He did not care what others thought if he knew and believed what he said was right.

While he was not of my political strand, it was said of him that he got on well with everybody and I witnessed this for myself. As young person coming into Leinster House as a member of the Fianna Fáil national executive, he never failed to make sure that there was food available to me in the restaurant. Indeed, the memories of him in Dundalk will go back to him frog-marching from his constituency clinic to the town hall on a Monday morning with his constituents following him like a real leader solving the problems of the people. As Deputy Howlin did, it would be remiss not to make reference to the lineage of the McGahon family from T. F., O. B., Hugh, Conor, Johnny, who is here, to Johnny's father, who served on the local authority. I will conclude by saying that having served with Conor on Louth County Council, it was always a privilege to work with him and I wish his nephew, who will try to continue that dynasty, every success, once he does not take my seat in Louth.

I join with other Members in paying tribute to the late Brendan McGahon and my former constituency colleague, the late Seymour Crawford. Seymour and I were both elected to the Dáil on the same day in 1992. Although we differed in our politics, we were always able to work closely together on issues of concern to constituents. On constituency issues, Seymour was a good colleague and a team player with all his fellow Oireachtas Members. As we know, Seymour was an extremely hard-working and committed public representative who gave great service to the people of Cavan-Monaghan. He had a great knowledge and understanding of rural Ireland and was a strong and consistent advocate for rural development.

In the early 1990s and later, we served together on the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly and in those very demanding days in our constituencies, along with Brendan McGahon and others, we were able to highlight the huge difficulties facing Border communities at that time and the need for political progress. While Seymour was being waked at his home in Aghabog, a plenary meeting of the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly was being held in London. I, along with others, paid tribute to him at that meeting on his commitment and diligent work over many years in that assembly. My words were repeated by Members from both the Westminster and Irish Parliaments. I saw at first hand that he built up close friendships and good working relationships with other parliamentarians from these islands. I know that Seymour always took a particular pride in his work on the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly and, indeed, when I visited his house to pay my respects, there were photographs of the many plenary meetings of the assembly from the early 1990s and later. Included in those gatherings were many parliamentarians from both Ireland and Britain who played an important role in improving the friendships and the political relationships between our islands. I recall a former Fine Gael Minister for Agriculture tell me some years ago that he held the office of Minister while Seymour held national office in the IFA. The former Minister told me that no matter where he went on a trade mission, Seymour had been there before him. As we know, Seymour was partial to a bit of foreign travel while he served in national office in the IFA.

Ar dheis Dé go raibh anamacha Bhreandáin agus Seymour and I extend my sincere sympathy to both families.

Brendan McGahon was a gentleman, a politician, a family man and a friend. It was a very sad day for the people of Louth when Brendan passed away on 8 February 2017. Brendan was predeceased by his wife Celine and survived by his five children, Robert, Conor, Adele, Keith and Jill. What can one say about Brendan McGahon? He was a great man and he used to call to my constituency office to give me, as a new Deputy, advice and then he would take me on walk through the streets of Dundalk. When one took such a walk through Dundalk, one felt nothing but jealousy because everybody knew Brendan. People would say thanks to him for getting planning permission, a medical card or a house. He was thanked for almost everything. I welcome his family here today and his close friends Isobel Sanroma, Kay Duffin, former Senator Jim D'Arcy and Anna McKenna. People travelled from Dundalk today.

Brendan was first elected to the Dáil 1982 and retired in 2002, having served two decades. The first thing Brendan said to me when I became a politician was that a politician requires a personality and not a party. In fairness, I studied that from day one. We could talk about Brendan all day. Brendan loved soccer and used to slag me that he played for Dundalk in the League of Ireland, which was fantastic. He was also a GAA supporter. He loved the horse racing and I used to meet him sometimes in Barry O'Brien's bookies' shop in Quay Street. Brendan would say to me not be afraid to my hand in my pocket and give the locals a few pound. He was always very good that way.

I remember visiting Brendan in Beaumont Hospital shortly before he died. I only intended to stay a few minutes but ended up staying two hours. The knowledge, the respect and everything else Brendan had was unbelievable. He was a great character.

I remember when I became a politician and joined Fine Gael, myself and Brendan did not meet eye to eye because we did not really know each other. I remember the first time I met him in his kitchen in the house in Ravensdale. He said to me that he did not know me and that I did not really know him. We sat there for nearly an hour after which we became good friends. I explained the reason I became involved in politics and joined Fine Gael and, in fairness, he showed me respect. I had nothing but admiration for him. It was a very sad day for the people of Louth when he died. I wish the family and his friends all the best in the future.

The late Deputy Seymour Crawford served with distinction in Cavan-Monaghan. Unfortunately, I never had the pleasure of serving with him because I am only on my first term but he was known, as so many of my colleagues said today, as the gentle giant. Reverend Colin Anderson rightly focused on Seymour Crawford's contribution, most importantly to the peace process, which was a hugely significant part of politics for the Border counties back in those times.

Politicians like Seymour nurtured that peace and they nurtured economic prosperity for the Border counties. Seymour took a keen interest in cross-Border structures. Much of his political career was focused on reconciliation, a very honourable attribute to which we should all aspire. My deepest sympathies go to his niece and nephews, Kirsten, Andrew and Alistair, and to the family of Brendan McGahon.

I want to acknowledge the family and friends of our late colleagues, Seymour Crawford and Brendan McGahon, and extend our sympathies to them. While I did not know Brendan personally, I heard the stories of a very colourful and outspoken character, which is probably in contrast to the more reserved approach Seymour always adopted.

I would not be standing here today were it not for Seymour Crawford. As has been stated, he was the person who introduced me to politics in 2003, when I was co-opted onto Monaghan County Council in his place. He took a chance on a woman with no history or involvement in politics, and I will be forever grateful for the opportunity he gave me. Seymour was not just a political mentor, he was a good neighbour and a very good friend. He was an extremely hard-working Deputy and he served the people of Cavan and Monaghan with great distinction in Dáil Éireann from 1982 until his retirement in 2011. Anybody who knew Seymour will know he was a gentle giant. He was steeped in agriculture and a man of the land and of the people - he really was a man of the people and all things rural. He was extremely good-natured and he would always go beyond in his efforts to help his constituents, whether that meant helping farmers in preparing their accounts, filling up a medical card application or just being there when they needed him.

Politics and helping people were Seymour's passion. He was at his happiest when he was out and about, meeting people. Even after his retirement he would continue his house calls to old friends and he loved nothing more than recounting past political battles. Above all else, Seymour was a very successful politician and he never lost an election. He would have been the first to say that the secret to his success was the very loyal group of people helping him out across Monaghan and Cavan, particularly in his home area of Aghabog. He introduced the political bug into that small rural community when he was elected to Monaghan County Council back in 1991 and, from that day to this, there has been an unbroken period of political representation from Aghabog.

It is a very proud history for a small community and I know it is something of which Seymour's family and friends, some of whom are in the Gallery today, are very proud. I often say that we will find the best canvassers in the country in Aghabog because Seymour trained them so well. He did not take "No" for an answer. He would keep going into the late hours and he would say, "We will get another house done." It was those same people who worked so hard with Seymour through his career and during his various campaigns who rallied around to help when he passed away last October. I want to acknowledge, in particular, Seymour's nephews, Andrew and Alistair, his niece, Kirsten, and his many friends, including Paddy Reilly and Maura Greenan, who helped look after Drumkeen when Seymour was in Dublin.

I know it has been a tough few months but the one thing that has shone through is the esteem and affection people all across Cavan and Monaghan had for Seymour Crawford. He was held in very high esteem by everyone in the Houses of the Oireachtas. Seymour leaves behind a legacy of hard work, decency, passion and commitment to serving the people who elected him. It is one that everybody elected to this House and to public office should aspire to.

Members rose.

Ar dheis Dé go raibh a n-anamacha.